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40 Ugandan Migrant Workers Removed From Plane Over 'Fake' COVID-19 Vaccination Cards

Some of the females resorted to sleeping on the ground after being barred from exiting the country

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Security officers at Entebbe International Airport today removed 40 migrant workers on a Qatar Airways flight before take off over fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

The migrant workers all under Premier Recruitment Ltd, had already boarded the Qatar Airways aircraft, but were asked to disembark from the plane. The flight was scheduled for 11am.

The workers, all female Ugandans were traveling to Saudi Arabia for domestic work. A security officer identified as Prima Kalungi reportedly approached the airline crew and said the workers must disembark from the plane because they had presented fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and therefore cannot be allowed to leave the country.

Saudi Arabia requires arriving passengers to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate and must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As a result, the migrant workers have now been returned to the company's head office in Kampala. They left the airport after 5pm.  However, the company's agents at the airport, the Port Health officers and health workers from Naguru Friendship Hospital who vaccinated the intending travelers on July 2, have been asked to record statements at Aviation Police Station at the airport.

Meanwhile, the ministry of health has exempted all migrant workers who have flights on Sunday from being re-tested. This development comes after Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies -UERA pleaded with the health ministry that many Ugandans would miss their flights scheduled for 11am and 3pm on Sunday if they have to take COVID-19 tests 24 hours at the Airport as had been ordered by the Ministry.

Few days ago Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health said the ministry will start re-testing all labour export workers a day before they depart the country. She said the measures would take effect today, July 11 at 12am.

Dr. Atwine explained that the move aims at detering further blacklisting of Uganda from international travel arrangements.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the spokesperson at the ministry of health, says migrant workers will be retested at Hotel Africana, Kampala and those who test negative will thereafter be cleared to travel. He says the process began this morning and that that test results will be released within 4 hours.

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The first batch of travelers to be subjected to the new measures will depart at 1:30am tomorrow aboard Qatar Airways.

Meanwhile, some of the labour companies say that it is becoming more difficult for migrant workers to leave the country. "Sometimes it is the COVID-19 test certificates. Other times it is vaccination cards, So it is no longer a sure deal that your girls or boys will fly."

They estimate that the total cost on flying a single migrant worker has increased from shillings 3million to over shillings 4 million due to COVID-19 travel restrictions,

Ronald Mwebaze, a booking agent for one of the labour companies, says airlines have also increased their air ticket prices due to high demand, particularly after Saudi Arabia banned flights from Cairo and Addis Ababa. Therefore, only Qatar Airways and Tarco Airlines are currently carrying migrant workers to the Middle East. The air ticket prices range between 560 US Dollars to 900 US Dollars, down from an average of 500 US Dollars.